The sestiere of San Marco has been the nucleus of Venice for more than a millennium. Many of Venice’s visitors make a beeline for this spot, spend a few hours here, then head for home without staying for even one night. But if you’re looking for luxury, stay around here to make the most of the city’s plushest hotels, the most elegant cafés and the swankiest shops.
Five star views: Europa e Regina. Commanding stunning views from the mouth of the Canal Grande; its terraces are among the most spectacular viewpoints in the city.
Super-luxe: Gritti Palace. Once the home of the doge, this hotel now offers every hi-tech facility you’d expect of a super-luxe hotel, but has lost none of its famous old-regime opulence.
Best for architecture and art: Dorsoduro
Some of the finest minor domestic architecture in Venice is concentrated here and the area’s superb collection of galleries makes it the perfect base for art lovers. The Gallerie dell’Accademia is the highlight, but there’s also Scuola Grande dei Carmini and the Guggenheim Collection.
Impeccable cool: DD 724. In a city awash with nostalgia, the cool high-grade modernist style of this locanda, right by the Guggenheim, comes as a welcome change.
Atmospheric rooms: Ca’ Maria Adele. Five of the twelve rooms in this very upmarket locanda are so-called “theme rooms”, with every item designed to enhance a particular atmosphere.
Best for daily Venetian life: San Polo and Santa Croce
The focal points of daily life in San Polo and Santa Croce are the sociable open space of Campo San Polo and the Rialto area, once the commercial heart of the Republic and still the home of a market that’s famous far beyond the city’s boundaries. The bustle of the stalls and the unspoilt bars are a good antidote to cultural overload.
Traditional meets modern: Ca’ Arco Antico. Some of the best budget accommodation in the city, this locanda has big rooms and a great location.
Gothic getaway: Ca’ San Giorgio. Exposed timber beams and walls of raw brick advertise the age of the Gothic palazzo that’s occupied by this fine little locanda.
Best for backwaters: Cannaregio
The pleasures of this sestiere are generally more a matter of atmosphere than of specific sights, but you shouldn’t leave Venice without seeing the Ghetto, the first area in the world to bear that name and one of Venice’s most evocative quarters.
A monastic retreat: Abbazia. One of Cannaregio’s most restful hotels, the light-filled Abbazia occupies a former Carmelite monastery.
A restored palace: Palazzo Abadessa. All 15 bedrooms (some of them huge) are nicely furnished with genuine antiques, and there’s a lovely secluded garden.